South Africans getting emotional

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:00 PM ET

PORT ELIZABETH - It’s Bafana Bafana mania.

That’s about the only way to describe the sudden passion South Africans have developed for their national team in the 2010 World Cup.

A tie, one wonderful tie, seems to have energized a country that was frightened its team would make a token appearance and then be sent packing.

Now there aren’t many places you can travel without being surrounded by fans blowing horns, wearing South African colours and trying to squeeze every bit of joy they can out of this moment.

It isn’t unusual to find fans dancing in the street and it takes but mere moments for them to attempt to entice the casual passerby into swaying hips, clapping hands and . . . attempting to sway other parts that simply won’t sway on some of us.

This type of emotional reaction is unusual for football in this country. Soccer often plays second fiddle to rugby, made famous recently by the film Invictus.

No one will admit it but more than a few took that movie to heart and believe there may be a soccer Invictus in the making.

It won’t happen, but for a country with so many problems, there’s no need for anyone to burst its bubble until it actually does pop.

What’s happening throughout South Africa is a joy to behold for those who hoped the country would show football a little love.

Thousands of South Africans are joining Bafana Bafana's official fan club.

The club had hoped to have more than a million members by 2014, when the World Cup is held in Brazil. Going into Wednesday’s game against Uruguay 747,000 had already joined. The website was started just two weeks ago.

And all those fans need to buy their gear somewhere.

As a result, South African merchants are making some nice dough on shirts, horns, just about anything that is identified with the South African team. Stores are being forced to restock shelves on a regular basis.

Even vendors on the street are cashing in, just like all those with a true entrepreneurial spirit. A South African flag that may have cost 100 rand, about $7, has gone up to 150 rand.

There’s also the phenomenon of the sock around the side mirror. Most drivers put socks bearing the colours of the South African flag around the mirrors.

It isn’t just the fans who are interested.

FIFA announced Monday that the opening game between Mexico and South Africa attracted more than 10 million viewers.

There is no telling where it will all end up if South Africa continues to do well.

If the host country advances to the second round, there might be a party to end all parties.

That, though, is easier said than done.

South Africa is still considered a long shot in that group because of its inexperience.

Bafana Bafana tied Mexico but still has to play Uruguay, a tough, physical team with some skilled players and France, a team that will need points against South Africa if it wants to advance.

South Africa must rely on its top players and in the opener some of them did not play well.

Midfielder Steven Pienaar admits his legs are tired after a difficult English Premier League season.

“I have played a lot of games in the last months and my legs are tired,” Pienaar said. “But as long as my mind and heart are willing, I'll keep pushing myself as hard as I can go.”

The tie against Mexico gave the South African’s a newfound belief in their own ability.

“"Considering the quality of Mexico and the result against them, we know we are in this group right to the end,” Pienaar said.

That boost will push players to make an extra run or tackle, even when they feel they can’t do it. It’s a lesson that can be learned from the vuvuzela-blowing, swaying, singing fans.

If South Africa should be in contention for advancement in the last game of the group stage, there may not be a shirt, horn or South African flag left in the country.


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